January 26, 2021

The Effect of COVID-19 on Affiliate Marketing

Since the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic, you’d be hard pressed to find a business or industry that hasn’t been impacted in some way–both good and bad. Case in point: We’ve seen toilet paper and hand sanitizer sales absolutely skyrocket while once-thriving restaurants and movie theaters have struggled to keep the lights on. Entire industries, like live entertainment, have been turned upside down. And the dust hasn’t nearly settled. In fact, economic insiders predict that the fallout from COVID-19 could be worse than the 2008 financial crisis. 

What Does that Mean for Affiliate Marketing?

The impact of COVID-19 on affiliate marketing has been just as varied. Predictably, programs in the at-home fitness, health, and medical supply verticals have performed extremely well. In fact, demand for household items and medical supplies increased so dramatically, Amazon had to make 100,000 new hires to keep pace with the demand. On the other hand, anything involving travel, gyms, or in-person events has been a very different story with affiliate commission rates slashed and/or many programs suspended altogether. 

Some things, however, haven’t changed. Marketers must continue to build their brands, and that requires new leads, new customers and, ultimately, sales. With brick-and-mortar store traffic way down and conferences, workshops, and trade shows very much in limbo, marketers need surefire channels where they can spend their marketing dollars. The fact is, with so many of us hunkered down at home, COVID-19 has given marketers a tremendous opportunity to reach consumers where they are: online. Since the start of the pandemic, internet usage is up nearly 70%. As the New York Times recently put it, “Coronavirus has changed the way we internet.” And that means one thing: The key to survival right now is the digital marketplace.

How Do Marketers Navigate This New Normal?

Now more than ever, consumers are turning to online shopping for many of the things they traditionally purchased in stores. In theory at least, that means online retailers could expect better returns on their online ad spend, right? Well, not exactly. To say the marketplace has been disrupted is an epic understatement. There have been extreme shifts in buying trends. Consumer spending is down overall, and ad revenue for some industries has taken a nosedive. To survive, every marketer out there has been forced to rethink strategy and retool campaigns–and then pivot some more. But, believe it or not,  there is some good news. Customers are still engaging.

The best marketing strategy right now–and post-pandemic–is to double down on engagement. It’s more important than ever to use content to create powerful online connections with your customer and to boost traffic. Like the rest of us, your customers are navigating a historic time of uncertainty. Brands that can provide relevant information to help them do that will rise to the top. Added bonus? You’ll be nurturing an ongoing conversation with your customer–and that, as we all know, is worth its weight in gold.  

Where is the Best Return on Ad Spend Right Now?

Customer engagement has never been more valuable, which is why so many brands are starting to consider  affiliate marketing a viable and high-ROI driving channel. Compared to a flat-fee ad spend, affiliate’s Pay for Performance model is certainly a budget-friendlier–and more nimble–alternative if you play your cards right. 

That means you’ve got to: 

  1. Provide relevant content to customers: Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still dominating our daily lives. First and foremost, make sure your content isn’t insensitive to what is happening in the world. Also, your content must provide authentic value in order to resonate with your customer and build trust. Remember, this may be the only opportunity for your customer to interact with your product or service.   
  2. Put a premium on flexibility: To meet your customer’s rapidly changing needs, you have to be able to quickly adapt and provide valuable information. Brands that work with affiliates who clearly communicate what they offer, when the consumer needs it and at the right price, win every time.   
  3. Don’t be afraid to experiment: Get the most bang for your buck by mixing things up with your affiliate partners. Try new promotions, partnerships, or commission structures that reward the partners who are doing the most to help you reach your goals.. Entice customers to buy through discounts, rewards programs, or other incentive offers. Now is the time to get creative and see what performs. 

Better Affiliate Marketing Partners Equal Better Returns

COVID-19 has forced nearly every industry out there to make some serious pivots. And affiliate marketing is no exception. That said, affiliate marketing is still very much a scalable engine of growth for your business but only if you’re maximizing every last dollar of your digital marketing budget. And that takes the right affiliate marketing partners, with the right relationships, to drive the right traffic to your brand in a way that results in new customers and actual sales. At PartnerCentric, our team has the experience and relationships they need to find the right partner opportunities for you and, if necessary, to quickly make strategic changes. And we’ve got the results to prove it: 98% of our current clients have experienced significant program growth since working with us. 

Ready to maximize this effective marketing channel?

Check out our quick Horror Stories from an Affiliate Marketing Insidervideo. We’ve covered a lot of ground in this short 10-minute video about things like:

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